Tories plan a bonfire of the NHS targets in bid to save 100,000 lives

David Cameron has set out his vision for the health service, with a promise to save 100,000 lives a year by giving patients more information and more power over their own care.

Labour’s internal NHS targets will be ditched and patients simply told which hospitals get the best results, under the radical Tory plans.

“How long will my dad survive if he gets cancer? What are my chances of a good life if I have a stroke? What are my chances of surviving from heart disease? This is the kind of information people want and need,” Mr Cameron planned to say.

He was also listing a series of goals – reminiscent of New Labour’s 1997 pledge cards – so that voters could hold a Conservative Government to account over its handling of the health service.

These include:

* raising cancer five year survival rates to above the EU average by 2015

* cutting early deaths from stroke and heart disease to below EU averages by 2015

* cutting early deaths from lung disease to below EU averages by 2020

* annual improvements in survival rates and quality of life for patients living with long-term conditions.

The Tories chose the 60th anniversary of the creation of the NHS to unveil their “Green Paper” on health policy, ‘Delivering some of the best health in Europe’, before an audience at the Royal College of Surgeons in London.

Mr Cameron has been eager to stress his commitment to the service, and neutralise Labour claims that a Tory Government would downgrade it.

He argued that Labour has strangled the NHS in red tape, “testing to destruction the idea that the NHS can be improved by more bureaucracy, more central control and more initiatives from the Department of Health”.

According to the Tories, raising NHS standards to the European average would save around 38,000 lives every year, but their “ambition” is to lift performance to match the best systems in the world, which would save at least 100,000.

Mr Cameron insisted that outcomes are the only thing that matters for patients: “What matters is the result itself, not how it is achieved.”

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the King’s Fund, welcomed the plans.

“(The Conservatives) are right that what matters to patients is whether their quality of life has improved following surgery or any other procedure rather than whether top-down targets have been met,” he said.

’But the Conservatives’ plan to abolish central targets needs to be considered carefully. Before we drop central targets altogether, we must be sure that there are appropriate safeguards to ensure standards and aspirations are in place.”


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